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DIY traffic calming in Beech Croft Road, Oxford

9 Jul

Here is an encouraging story about what can be achieved by a community that works together to make changes in their street.

DIY traffic calming

Here is a report on the BBC about it.

And bizarre a visit by Richard Hammond of Top Gear in the mix. I am told that Richard Hammond had no idea what was in store for him and that the residents had no idea who the presenter was going to be.

You can read more about the project on their blog, on the associated ‘road witch’ blog and also in a report by Oxford city Council. The project was the first of a number of schemes supported by the Sustrans DIY Streets project.

Incidentally… here is a great story with loads of pictures about the terrible sate the street was in for pedestrians some time back. (added following comment below – thanks).

Beech Croft Road some time earlier

Heroes, motorists and parking places

1 May

The BBC published an article earlier today asking ‘Is there a worldwide parking problem’ in response to a piece of research published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In the article they talk about all the cunning ways one can park 600 million cars in a smaller space that at present, or just change the colour of the car park so that the surface doesn’t get so hot.

Unfortunately they (and the report) doesn’t address the question of why so many people drive in the first place, how demand can be reduced. No mention of car clubs, public transport, cycling or simply charging drivers for the spaces they use rather than just providing spaces for free. The BBC gives Bluewater, which provides 13,000 free parking places ‘right next to the M25’, as an example of good practice because they have lots of tree shade. The architect of the Bluewater car parks is quoted as saying “[car parks] should be designed in such a way that they “honour the heroic routine” of driving, working and shopping.”

Heroes, driving, shopping? Now this is getting seriously weird!

They also make no mention of the dramatic reductions in car traffic in many UK cities since about 1995 or the impressive drop in parking demand in Canary Wharf recently; in the late 1990s 12% of workers in Canary Wharf ‘demanded‘ parking spaces, but now only half that number do. I am not sure why This is London uses the phrase ‘demand’; I could ‘demand’ more cycle racks or free bus travel and nothing would change! But I guess heroes can demand anything.

Anyway… I have written to the BBC with my views and will see if I get any sort of response.

Beware, lobbying ahead

7 Nov

A new lobbying group “The Road Ahead Group” is apparently being set up by various business with interests in freight, and in building and operating roads. They will be lobbying Whitehall but according to the press aim to maintain a low public PR profile. True to their word, they appear to currently have no web presence but we do know that it has been set up by Brian Wadsworth who moved to a lobbying firm after a stint as Director of Strategic Roads, Planning and National Networks’ at the Department for Transport. Other supporters include Midland Expressways (who operate the M6 Toll road), my friends May Gurney and other infrastructure companies. Rather quaintly, one of their lobbying aims is to protect part of the Vehicle Excise Duty revenue for road building. (err, didn’t Winston Churchill get rid of that in 1937?)

In an apparently unconnected announcement in the past 24 hours the RAC Foundation and ARUP have claimed that the UK needs to spend £12.8bn building new roads; they talk about an infrastructure ‘shortfall’, outline 100 ‘urgently needed’ projects and say that current situation is ‘worrying’ and ‘concerning’. One thing they are not concerned about it carbon emission and climate change – the word carbon does not appear and the word ‘climate’ only gets mention in relation to the financial climate. They do however like toll rolls and Public Private Partnerships and by way of good examples they draw attention to the fact that Canada, Spain and the USA have built a lot of roads recently.

Curiously, given that neither Arup nor the RAC Foundation are publicly connected with ‘The Road Ahead Group’, but their report does happen to recommend that road building should be supported by “giving the sector a dedicated revenue stream, based on retained user charges and/or hypothecation of some motoring taxes (e.g. VED).” Incidentally, the RAC Foundation/Arup report is written by a former civil servant at the DfT, where ‘he sponsored the Department’s roles in major projects and transactions’. The doors are clearly still revolving – you can read about bit about revolving doors and lobbying in the UK on Wikipedia.

To sign off, here is an image from the RAC Foundation/Arup report. They don’t mention it by name, but it is this monsterous interchange in Los Angeles – an impressive bit of engineering for sure, but possibly not something any of us will want in our back yard, and indeed LA is going off roads and getting pretty excited about public transit.

Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange (Los Angeles)

Motorists fight back – and win

21 Sep

In Richmond, London the council has been forced to repay £1 million in parking fines to 18,500 motorists who were caught parking on the pavement by an incorrectly licenced CCTV enforcement vehicle.

On the Isle of Man residents have persuaded the council to remove four steel posts that they had previously installed to protect the pavement from parked vehicles. They had been installed when a resident complained about the larger vehicles constantly blocking pavements on the corner.

In Barnet there is another petition from local motorists demanding that the council stops giving them tickets for parking on the pavements.

A disabled man in north London is up-in-arms about not being allowed to park on the pavement saying that the council ‘was only doing it to make money’. Shame that he can’t see what would be the result if they didn’t fine motorists for parking on the pavement.

On a lighter note. Some enterprising, but possibly foolish, individual in Manchester tried issuing their own very convincing parking tickets complete with information on how to pay the apparent £60 (35 if paid promptly) fine to the ficticious ‘Greater Manchester Highways Safety Monitoring Partnership’ via and PO box number. A 40-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of fraud and bailed pending further inquiries.

However possibly we are actually get away lightly in the UK. Here are a couple of stories from other places.

In Moscow they have an idea that creating a floating car park for 100 vehicles on the Moscow River by Vorobyovy Gory nature reserve with be the answer. The car park would be free to use and ‘be paid for by the cafe also included in the proposal’ which seems a little unlikely. The situation in Moscow seems terrible with motorists driving along the pavement as well as parking on it.

And then in USA a school is laying on buses because the car park for school pupils is closed for 3 weeks. the school says “If eligible for transportation, please encourage students to take the bus in order to avoid a back up in drop off and pick up lines. If you must drive your children to school, please allow extra time. The start of the school day will NOT be delayed because of traffic.”






Learning from Detroit

11 Jan

I had the privilege to find myself in Detroit for 10 days last summer. As someone committed to getting the transport systems in our urban areas working well I was inspired by the BBC documentary ‘Requiem for Detroit’ to see the city which was both the birthplace of mass car ownership and which had been virtually destroyed by the same industry. I was able to see a city that can tell us a lot about what was wrong more generally and which has messages for us back in the Europe.

I found a cycling friendly city with lots of open space, but soon after we got they I started noticing that this bankrupt city was installing dropped-kerbs at every junction including for ones where there were no occupied buildings and no evidence of any foot traffic such as this one.

Brand new dropped kerb – grass gowing out of the pavement

And this one. It is however a complete co-incidence that the unoccupied building in this next photo used to house the ‘State of Michigan, Dept of Management and Budget, Motor Transport Division’ which I guess was in charge of using money wisely! Incidentally, the building is on Rosa Parks Boulevard which is named after Rosa Parks who was later described as “the first lady of civil rights”, and “the mother of the freedom movement” after she refused to go along with the laws in the South that said that a black person had to give up their seat on a bus if a white person wanted to sit down. She lived in Detroit in her later life and is someone who should be an inspiration to everyone who wants the bring about change, including getting cars off pavements!

The ‘Dept of Management and Budget Control’. Closed, but enjoying a brand new dropped-kerb

Why? Well the Disability Discrimination Act in the USA requires urban areas to install dropped kerbs and I was told by a local that the city had been sued for not implementing them. Given that the official boundary of the city was still the same as it had been in the 1930s, the city had to install them everywhere, including places where no one lived anymore. Another person pointed out that the previous mayor was in jail for corruption and perjury having previously been ‘riding around in luxury as city decays‘. I have had no suggestion that these dropped kerbs were part of any corruption though. A combination of well intentioned but unhelpful legislation, poor decision making and cronyism does occur to some degree everywhere however – in the UK we can also spend money on some pretty odd things as has been beautifully highlighted by the Warrington Cycle Campaign’s ‘Facility of the month awards’. Incidentally, Detroit is about to shrink its boundaries as the state halves its road budget due to reducing icome from their ‘gas tax’.

I am pleased to say that we also found a great city though which is full of optimism with younger people coming back with ideas for the future with an impressive Critical Mass ride each month. Both of these Critical Mass videos are worth watching. They present a view of huge empty space in the city, its vibrancy and a glimpse of what is starting to take place in the spaces vacated by all the cars and why creative pioneers are moving back into the city in what has become known as ‘reverse white flight‘.

However… this is still ‘Motown’ and Detroit hosts the North American International Auto Show this week with ‘car dealers rejoicing as optimism returns to motown’.

So there you have it – messages for all of us from Detroit where everything is in the melting pot!